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skinny-fat-phobiai stole the title for this post from a post i did about a year ago at this time because i think it is awesome to cite myself and such. in a reflective (reflexive?) move, i am going to flirt with blogging more. of course, i say that at the tail end of a christmas vacation going a bit stale, hence the question mark. i can only produce  so much and with the teaching and the finishing of the dissertation, i might be busier than i think (that was a question. i think). other things i am currently doing that are bonkers (and possibly the result of the massive amount i have eaten over the past 2 weeks. well, more than that. but stop monitoring me forgodsake!):

  1. twittering. well. i haven’t twittered yet. but i have signed up (under the username beefjacky) and i’m gonna. just.you.wait.
  2. sending xmas presents AFTER xmas. sorry ma, pa, and well…everyone else.
  3. watching many, many hours of corner gas. that’s t-bone’s fault. saskatchewan-lovin’ bastard that he is.
  4. not exercising. this doesn’t sound badass but it is. i get a little squirrely when i don’t exercise. like all coopy. and jack nicholson-y in the shining.

but anyhoo. in service of upping the blog ante, i am going to talk about my new favourite topic. which of course is fat. which means it isn’t really a departure. but i have already done a bunch of bonkers things (see above) and i gotta ease into blogging more (which is the goal) and what this “new blog” will look like (probably just more stuff about how much jacks loves jacks. another favourite topic).

i think in the liminal days between vacation and real life/work people take stock of all that they have overdone, be it eating, spending money, or spending time with relatives who make you feel good about yourself (if you were brought up in some kind of brady bunch scenario) or bad about yourself (if you are like everybody else). i’ve never had family members say anything about my weight but i come from a long line of people who pay attention. and then talk about what they noticed. not gossips per say. just really observant folk. i say all this because i have been thinking a lot about the shame associated with fatness. even oprah will be talking about her embarassment over her (re)weight gain in upcoming january shows. and it makes me sad. how hard it is for women to be in their own skin.

i often think back to how when i gained 30 pounds because of the dreaded freshman fifteen (which doubled for me probably because i have never been able to do math). and how no one mentioned it. how people must have been talking about it behind my back, but no one broached it, unless i did first. okay, so 30lbs isn’t that much you say. but it was noticeable. and i wonder why no one said anything. fatness is a peculiarly gendered phenomenon. where women are encouraged to notice weight on one another. yet not speak of it for fear of causing someone shame. i am not trying to say that someone should have talked to me and “saved” me from my weight gain. but i kinda felt like i had no one to talk to about it. like i was differently embodied (than i had been), with no where to turn. i managed to internalize notions of disgust and sheer intolerance for my extra 30 pounds, considering the kind of fat phobic culture that surrounded me (and by this, i mean the kind of fat phobic culture i think we are all complicitous in and aware of without necessary knowing the harm it causes. and the bodies it punishes). my point is, women – in their complex cooperative-but-competitive relation – support one another until it comes to weight. then it’s every woman for herself. or the unspoken self-esteem-crushing complicity of categorizing our flaws for one another. damaging ourselves for the purposes of relatability. i did it for years. and now that causes me shame.

we have a hard time acknowleding fat. talking about it like it really matters. like it really affects our lives. maybe it is inappropriate for a “thin woman” (so many problems with this determination, not least its relativity) to speak about fat like it matters. maybe that is why it remains unspoken. like if we don’t talk openly about fat oppression, we just get to live in privileged silence. silence that breeds silence to your face. and rebuke behind your back.

so let’s talk fat. whaddoyou gotta say?

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academic projects are, for the most part, red herrings. take mine for example. i say that i study online dating – which is true – but only to an extent. do you feel lied to? deceived? undermined? well you should. but don’t be a baby about it. what i mean is that often research topics are vehicles (distractions for the audience) that allow us to study that which truly interests us – in my case again those things are gender, sexuality, technology and media studies. so when one says something like “i study online dating” they in fact mean something entirely different. however, we fear that if we told you what we were actually interested in, you’d stop listening. and in most cases, that would be true. but sociologists are at an advantage. they are the lucky ones of the academic world. they usually study things that people are interested in. of course, this results in people thinking that they already know everything about your work, but whatevs, at least they are engaged.

last weekend i went out with my new favourite neighbour-friends who, amazingly, were engaged by the theoretical direction my project was taking. granted these women are bright. warm. receptive. open. but really, i asked myself, do they really find this interesting? shockingly, they did. and it made me fell all warm and bubbly inside. primarily, i am interested in subjectivity which is really just a way of saying, states of being in the world. with gendered subjectivities we have few options, male, female, and well, at present, that’s it. what has always profoundly resonated with me since i figured out what poststructuralism meant in my undergrad is that male and female exist in dichotomous relation to one another, meaning that they can only be understood as a relation – a diametrically opposed relation, where one is what the other is not. what i have recently come to understand about these forms of gendered subjectivity is that men and women are not only related to each other in this binary structure but that the structure itself is intelligible within the broader structure of heterosexual relations – that is, men and women exist, to some extent, in the service of the heterosexual imperative that exists in most contemporary societies.

have you ever wondered why there is only one “appropriate” way for human beings to come together? why only a man and a woman can come together in loving relationships to the exclusion of all others? if that man wants another man, that is something “else” – and needs to be labeled otherwise (thus resulting in other binary forms such as straight and gay), if a man and woman want to engage in sexual relations with others, that too is labeled something “else” – something deviant. unusual. being heterosexually coupled is not simply a choice. it is a compulsory activity. this is not a new idea for me as it has been central to feminist thinking for a while. however, it wasn’t until i read something by french radical lesbian feminist monique wittig that it clicked. i had the academic equivalent of an oprah “aha moment.” i know – exciting, eh?

wittig argues that:

“…it would be incorrect to say that lesbians associate, make love, live with women, for “woman” has meaning only in heterosexual systems of thought and heterosexual economic systems. lesbians are not women.”

friggin’ profound, no? while asserting that lesbians are not women may on the surface seem exclusionary, when we look deeper, we understand that it is meant to be so – as a radical embrace of that difference, or abjection. but it is also ultimately subversive. to say that lesbians are not women is to question the false cohesion that binds women to men, and to men exclusively. for wittig, the category of woman is problematic insofar as it excludes other modes of being, that is to say, lesbianism for example. but to deny the status of woman opens up the possibility of plurality. different modes of being that are not demanded by a heterosexual imperative. by a femininity – a “womanliness” that is limited, limiting. predestined by virtue of the vagina.

i have made this post unfortunately dense but it has been fun, if only for me. i’d love to hear people’s reactions to notions of alternative subjectivities, beings. can we live in a world of “monstrous bodies,” as technofeminist donna haraway calls them, of difference not defined within the confines of nuclear families, male/female relations, and intelligible bodies – that is, bodies that “make sense” to us, and engage in sexual relations that are condoned and not condemned, are coherent and “manageable.” or do we understand a need for inclusion. of making space. of diverse forms of being that acknowledge common humanities.

just asking.